Whether you’re a student writing academic essays, an entrepreneur preparing business proposals, or even an aspiring novelist, writing well is a skill that is crucial to communicating for impact. Like riding a bicycle, writing requires patience and hard work. Some might argue that the ability to write or create content is a natural talent in that you either have it or you don’t. Others might argue that with hard work and practice, you can develop any skill- even writing. Regardless of the answer to that timeless argument, there are several steps you can take to nudge the writing skills in your favour. Last week students in the ALU Student Marketing Council participated in a writing workshop to develop their skills as writers and contributors to the ALU story. Here are some helpful tips from the workshop on how to improve your writing technique, create engaging titles, overcome writer’s block, and more.
Read and write… a lot. These two are inseparable. The more you read, the better you’ll write and the more you write, the better you will become at reading and understanding text. Whether it is through picking up on writing techniques or holes in arguments, reading and writing play an important role in shaping your ability to receive and communicate information. In order to develop your writing skills, you need to be proactive at both. Nothing says dedication like deliberate practice. If you’ve ever read Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, he talks about the 10,000 hour rule which refers to the number of hours you would need to intentionally put in to master a skill.
Collect interesting words or phrases you come across daily. As daunting as this may sound, sometimes people get stuck with writing when they struggle to find a new and engaging way to say something. If you carry a little notepad with you or even your phone, you can note down striking words you come across either in writing or from a conversation. Not only might you improve your vocabulary, but you’ll have a bank of words and phrases for the next time you’re stuck.
Don’t be afraid to be inspired. One of the myths of writing is that we think content has to come from deep within us. When you’re stuck with that mentality, it becomes very hard to write- especially when you don’t really know what to write about. The more you’re exposed to, the greater the chance you will find something to inspire you. Be it a movie, a picture or even another piece of writing, learning from the creative works of others can drive your own writing process forward.
Sentence priming. The sentences you write come from the ideas and language that you’ve picked up from the things you read. If there’s a particular style of writing that appeals to you, read more work in that style. For example, Ernest Hemingway is known for short, to the point sentences and Alice Munro for her simple but insightful meditations on life. Over time, you will become more familiar with them and will lean towards structuring your sentences that way. Alternatively, if you find yourself stuck in a particular way of writing, read something completely different to shake it up!
Actively seek feedback. It’s easy to think you’re a master of writing when no one else is reading your work. Being receptive to feedback is a great way to get a different perspective on what you have written. People might point out something you did great or draw your attention to something that’s not clear. Finding a group of people who give you detailed and constructive feedback is a good tool to have in your shed when you’re trying to improve your writing. Frequent feedback also gives you the opportunity to explore different writing styles as well. You might think you’re great at academic essays because you get good grades in English when in fact, you are really good at feature writing and magazine articles. Test your limits and use constructive feedback to guide you. You can find some useful resources to learn more about giving and receiving feedback here and here.
To learn more about how we prepare our students for writing at ALU, check out our Leadership Core course Communicating for Impact to learn more.